The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 9, Number 7
Dec 1985

American Archivists Plan Certification

The July Newsletter of the Society of American Archivists devotes four pages to a proposed plan for certification of their members, which will be discussed and voted on in 1986. The Committee on Education and Professional Development, which formulated the plan, has tried to learn from the experiences of other organizations, and from the SAA's s own prior effort in 1977, which failed.

One reason the plan takes up so many pages is not that it is full of red tape, but that it gives reasons for things. The SAA is a democratic organization that has a lot of member participation; whether this is the cause or the effect of all those reasons is hard to tell. For example, in the section on initial certification by exam:

  1. [The exam] will take one full day (for thoroughness).
  2. It will have separate parts for separate aspects of archives administration, and a person who passes only some parts may retake the others for a proportional fee (for fairness and reduction of cost).
  3. It will include essay questions (to provide a more convincing determination of competence).
  4. It will test each candidate's basic knowledge of all aspects of archives administration (to assert the unity of the profession and the relatedness of its functions).
  5. There may be some opportunity to choose from among more difficult questions in areas of special knowledge (to give credit for advanced competence).

Similarly in the section on recertification, which describes how points can be earned for specified activities:

  1. Points can be earned for virtually all activities that are widely recognized as improving individual competence and advancing the profession as a whole.
  2. Each applicant must earn points in several areas because different activities are valuable in different ways.

And so on, for seven more points in this section.

There is provision for "grandfathering" (initial certification by petition) but the grandfathers must have both education and experience in fairly large amounts, e.g. a master s degree plus six years' experience.

The statement of objectives reads as follows:

The program is meant not as a form of regulation but only as a service to the profession. It will provide individual archivists and their employers with a new means of gauging basic competence and its improvement through experience, continuing education, and professional activity. It will provide the profession with a new means of stimulating developmental activity for the common good. It is not intended to control entry into any professional position or force archivists to meet the requirements if they wish to retain the respect of their peers. The working group believes that the program should be implemented only if a substantial minority of career archivists are likely to participate but does not anticipate that certification will become the routine credential of professional archivists in the near future.

The SAA is at 600 5. Federal, Suite 504, Chicago, IL 60605 (312/922-0140).

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